NHL Free Agency: 'Hawks GM Stan Bowman Was Right to Walk Away from Chris Campoli

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IJuly 16, 2011

Chris Campoli could have been the right piece on the Blackhawks back end.  Unfortunately, the price wasn't right.
Chris Campoli could have been the right piece on the Blackhawks back end. Unfortunately, the price wasn't right.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman capped off a busy week with some stunning Friday moves.  The signing of Michael Frolik and the unexpected addition of defenseman Sami Lepisto had barely registered when Bowman confirmed what Lepisto's one-year deal suggested.

Bowman is washing his hands of the Chris Campoli negotiations.  This non-signing may be at the top of what could be a wildly successful offseason for the man calling the shots in Chicago.

Bowman signed two of his three high-profile RFA's (Viktor Stalberg and Frolik) this week, retained a couple of prospects (Rob Klinkhammer and Brian Connelly) and picked up a serviceable blueliner at a modest price.  While I have nothing personal against Campoli and thought he performed well in his short time with the 'Hawks, I have no problem bidding him adieu.

Why?  Cue the analogy...

Suppose you were jonesing for some Lucky Charms late one evening, went to the store right before closing, and found that they were temporarily out of Lucky Charms.  You pick up some generic L.C. substitute, it's not the same, but it satisfies your hunger until morning when the store opens again.

Then, when you get back to the store, you find that the grocer has doubled the price of that generic cereal.  Still buying those "Charm-O's" or whatever goofy name they have on the generic Lucky Charms?

Sami Lepisto, who spent last season in Phoenix and Columbus, signed a one-year deal with the 'Hawks.
Sami Lepisto, who spent last season in Phoenix and Columbus, signed a one-year deal with the 'Hawks.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Of course not.  You could get better cereal, or at least another generic brand ("Lucky Oats" anyone?), for a cheaper price.

I realize that I could have made a similar analogy using a bar-hopping Patrick Kane, some hot models, and a last-call hookup on Rush Street, but eating cereal is something to which I can relate (as opposed to commiserating with hot models).  Feel free to fill in the blanks.

Chris Campoli is not a terrible player, but this wasn't Brent Seabrook with whom Bowman was negotiating.  This is a player that was a last-minute pick up by a team desperate for defense and played well for the last quarter of the season.

Campoli is, at age 27, a solid third-pairing defenseman who likes to pinch and can move the puck.  He fit in pretty well with the 'Hawks when they needed minutes on the back end.

What Bowman realizes and Campoli's people lost sight of is this: there are a lot of guys who can play that role and don't require a $3 million contract.

The term "dime a dozen" is a bit harsh for a player like Campoli, who has a lot of upside.  I thought he stuck up for team mates and played important minutes for the 'Hawks down the stretch.  That said, there are a lot of players out there who could match Campoli's production and Bowman had little difficulty getting one.

Lepisto, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract, is a player of Campoli's ilk.  In 70 games with Phoenix and Columbus in 2010-11, he had four goals, 12 assists, and a plus-10 rating.  He's not an overly physical force in front of the net, but he does move the puck well.

Will Lepisto replace Brian Campbell's production?  Probably not, but the truth is that Campoli would also develop a few warts under the scrutiny of a full season of games.  Both guys are more than serviceable third pairing defensemen who can skate 15-20 minutes a night.

For the price break, I'll take Lepisto.  Bowman retains nearly two million extra cap dollars to use for a rainy day, and the 'Hawks get a young player looking to raise his value on a playoff-caliber team like the Blackhawks.

If the money saved by resisting signing Campoli to a big deal produces a impact player down the line, score a big one for the 'Hawks GM.  Sometimes the deals you don't make can be as important as the ones you do make.

Perhaps announcing that he was finished negotiating with Campoli's camp and was looking to trade his rights lost Bowman a little bargaining power.  However, Bowman seems to be sticking to his guns by not giving out huge money at every turn.  I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this decision.

That's because I feel Bowman made the right one.